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Protests fail to keep visitors away from Zoo
9:25am Wednesday 7th April 2010 in Letters
Easter Saturday's Dudley town centre protests by English Defence League members and arch rivals Unite Against Fascism failed to keep 600-plus visitors from Dudley Zoo.
Route diversions were well organised and police officers guided visitors to emergency parking. They did a fine job which allowed our busy Easter programme, plus four birthday parties and a local wedding - albeit with a heavy police escort!- to go ahead.
The zoo's ancient monuments offer a vantage viewing point across town which made it possible to follow protesters' movements. As a journalist during the Birmingham riots and National Front marches of the eighties I regularly witnessed scattered policing and random mob dispersal, but on Saturday saw a controlled and confident force taking charge; outbreaks were confined to small areas with minimal disturbance.
End-of-protest crowd movement delayed visitors exiting the zoo's College car park by approx 15mins, but officers remained in contact throughout, and usual opening hours were retained.
Given Saturday's unique circumstances zoo visitor figures were not disappointing but a success, thanks to a massive community partnership.
The whole campaign was the result of in-depth consultation and co-operation between the police and the local community with leaders remaining focused and united, despite media predictions of a fanatics' bloodbath.
Jill Hitchman, Senior Press Officer, Dudley Zoological Gardens, Castle Hill, Dudley.